Yearly Archives: 2013

sleep deprivation and new moms

The shocking truth about how Sleep Deprivation affects new Moms

Are you having trouble sleeping at the moment? If you do, then you are one of the 84% of pregnant Mums who experience insomnia a few nights a week. This is according to the US National sleep Foundation of America Poll in 2007 – btw that seems to be the most recent poll that includes specifically pregnant women and new Mums. What you might not want to know is that if you are having sleeping problems now – you are likely to get even less sleep after your baby is born!

I’ve just finished reading Jodi A Mindell’s “Sleep deprived no more” who investigates sleeping problems in pregnancy and new Mums. (Jodi is associate director of the Sleep Center at The Children’s Hospital Philadelphia and Professor of psychology at St Joseph’s University.) Having read it – I wish I had found out more about sleep issues, before I took my baby home. I was so sleep deprived during the last 3 months I was pregnant – and if I told you how long I was sleep deprived AFTER my baby was born – it would frighten you – so I won’t tell you. The main thing I want to say is that many of her strategies may help YOU, so I’m going to share what I have learned here.

Let me say upfront why it’s important that you know about this BEFORE your baby comes home. Sleep deprivation will affect your life, plus your Partner’s life plus how well you are able to care for your baby. Because it affects how you feel – your mood, tolerance levels etc, how well you cope with things, it affects how you care for your baby, it affects your relationships.

Sleep deprivation also increases your risk of going on to develop Post Partum Depression. You may not realise how serious this is – but I want you to know that if you do develop PPD your baby is going to miss out on all that LOVE and devoted CARE you are wanting to give. And that’s a fact – because with PPD you become less and less able to think clearly and are less likely to go and get help, and also less likely to accept offers of help from others.

Some studies have shown that persistent fatigue of more than 2 weeks can predict Post Partum Depression, and another study found that 13 out of 14 of these fatigued Moms had Post Partum depression by the time baby was 1 month old!

So let’s look at the direct effects of sleep deprivation on the body.
It affects your mind – you can’t think clearly, you forget things, and working through problems becomes difficult and it also affects the decisions you make.

You don’t do things as well as you used to do them and are more likely to make mistakes.

In order to keep your immune system strong – you need adequate sleep. If you’re not getting this, your immune system is weakened and you are more likely to get sick. (Which makes caring for a little baby even more challenging)

You feel less happy with your lot – the whole experience of becoming a Mum is not what you thought it would be like, you find your Partner is not doing what you expect him to do, you are tired and irritable. Your decision making is impaired and you do things like drive a car when you know all you want to do is sleep.

Your body needs adequate sleep in order to function optimally.

An overview of how sleep works (as I understand it) is: sleep is controlled by “sleep drive” – your desire to sleep increases the longer you have been up, and also by our internal sleep clock (circadian clock).

Not getting enough sleep can happen to expecting mothers for various reasons.
1. Progesterone – one of the pregnancy hormones increases and it causes you to feel sleepy in the day but disrupts night time sleep.
2. Anxiety, depression or obesity can cause sleep loss – and a huge number of expecting mothers spend their time worrying about all sorts of things!

Things that will make it harder to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Sleeping with animals in the room (I mean cats or dogs!) just kidding but I thought we might have a laugh!
2. The temperature of the environment may not be comfortable – pregnant Moms are more sensitive to heat, or the bed may not be comfortable, a snoring partner may keep you awake. Come up with a solution to these issues.
3. Caffeine and nicotine affect your sleep.
4. Lack of exercise affects your sleep.
5. If you drink a lot of fluids shortly before going to bed.
6. Eating spicy or acidic food which can cause heartburn.
7. Going to bed hungry
8. Eating sugary foods
9. Drinking alcohol before bed
10. Restless Legs Syndrome (More about that later)
11. Electronics in the bedroom


1. Work WITH your body clock and develop a good sleeping routine
2. This routine could include going to bed at the same time each night, having a set number of activities as you prepare for bed eg. combing your hair, moisturising your skin, brushing your teeth, reading a boring book or listening to soothing music – giving signals to your body that it’s sleeping time. In other words develop a RELAXING sleep routine.
3. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, mattress is comfortable, bedding is comfortable, that the bedroom is quiet cool and DARK. (I think this is something really important that Jodi suggests and is well worth investing in. If you think how little an expense some dark blinds or curtains would be and that you’re going to need all the help you can get during that first year. I know my bedroom was always very light – and I wonder if this would have helped me)
4. Jodi also talks about making your bedroom beautiful calm and relaxing, and that you sleep in comfortable clothing, use socks for cold feet etc
5. If you are going to worry – set aside 30 minutes during the day for it – and don’t allow your mind to go to those worries again at night. (Easier said than done – but an incredible life skill to develop!)
6. If your bedroom is affected by noise – do something to drown out the sounds by using a fan or some other “white noise”
7. Sleep on your side – so that circulation to the uterus is not interfered with, and use pillows to make yourself comfortable.

1. Put into practice all of the above if you have not yet done so.
2. Discuss with your partner the risk of Post Partum Depression and what the TWO of you will do to ensure that Mom gets adequate sleep – this is a VERY important discussion to have with your partner BEFORE baby comes home. It is best if this discussion includes domestic chores and home tidiness – and how this will be handled if Mum is needing to make catching up on sleep a priority.
3. This may involve Mom having to go to bed early at night when baby goes to sleep – just so she clocks up an extra hour or two.
4. In the early weeks and months, Mum needs to make the most of ALL opportunities for sleep and often the best time to get an hour or two is to sleep during the day – when baby is sleeping. This can go against the grain for many new Mums as they want to run around and catch up on other things – but I can’t stress how important it is that you take care of yourself as your No 1 priority – so that you can be in good shape to care for your baby. Recently I had a discussion with a couple of Mums who had Post Partum Depression and they both said that they underestimated the effect sleep deprivation was having on them and their life.
5. With regards your baby – your baby’s circadian clock is not yet developed so your baby doesn’t know the difference between night and day. However – it’s a good idea to maintain your own sleep rhythm and keep all activities during the night low key – with subdued lighting. In time, your baby will realise that this means sleeping and not playing.
6. With regards breastfeeding, be very gentle with yourself in the early weeks. However – whether it is day or night – get into the habit of observing your baby as baby feeds and encourage your baby to stay awake during feeds. If baby drops off to sleep on the breast – gently unwrap the baby which will usually wake baby – and then offer the breast again. If baby is not hungry baby won’t take the breast again. As you get to know your baby – you’ll know that just for example – 2 minutes of good sucking is not enough to satisfy baby – and baby will wake again 30 minutes later and want to feed again. By the way – this is absolutely fine for your baby – but if this continues day after day – YOU will end up exhausted, then sleep deprived, then thinking less clearly, then not enjoying the process, then on your way to Post Partum Depression.
7. If you find that you are not getting much sleep – it is important to discuss this with your Doctor and be very open about the way you feel, and if you’re still enjoying becoming a Mum. Your Doctor will then be able to advise you.

Just a quick word here about Restless Legs Syndrome RLS – this is not pleasant – I know because I had it, and you can’t sleep cause you keep having to move your legs into a more comfortable position.
Apparently, in the last 3 months of pregnancy one in three expecting Moms will experience this. It is caused by low levels of iron and folic acid so make sure you do what you can to maintain your levels. It is also aggravated by caffeine, alcohol and lack of exercise so do some stretches before going to bed.

In retrospect – I think that realising how important MUM’S health is, we – the Mum herself needs to make caring for herself a priority – that way Mum is in fact also better able to deliver that superb LOVE and CARE she wants to give to her baby.

PS Jodi Mindell goes into a lot more detail of course, but I hope this little summary of what I got from reading her book is helpful to you.


Visitors After the Baby – 10 Tips

Do you feel special when you’re pregnant? Well, step aside, Lady, because a baby is here and people love babies.
The dilemma that comes with having this little rock star in your home now is that billions of people will want to come visit it. Some will be helpful some will not.
So here are a few handy tips I’ve picked up along the way so you’re able to show your magnificent little miracle off to the world like Simba in the Lion King.

Don’t let anyone stay with you that you can’t cry in front of or you can’t tell to “shutup”.

There may be a few people that offer to stay with you when the baby comes. This can be a Godsend or a shitshow. Really think about that person and how much you want them to see behind the curtain. You may be too tired to delicately say, “I know she’s not latching properly but I’m just trying to get the hang of it” and instead say, “See off? You need to fuck right to it!”.

Decide carefully about who you want to be around 24/7 when your inner filter isn’t working at full capacity.

Spread out the visitors

People love to see the baby immediately, that, or they feel obliged to see the baby immediately. Either way, try to spread them out as much as you can so you can get settled and enjoy everyone’s company long after the fanfare typically dies down. Try not to book too far in advance either, you seriously may feel great the day after you give birth and feel like a back alley crack whore by week two.

Go to people that you think will over stay their welcome – don’t have them come to you

Sometimes this really isn’t their fault. I was one of these people before I had kids because I had no idea how tiring a newborn can be and would sit there gabbing on about some new bar I’d been to while staring into the vacant doll-like eyes of my best friend holding her newborn. I’m sure she wanted to tell me to shut my cake hole and get the hell out of her house, but just didn’t have the energy.

These are the people you should meet for a coffee or go to their place.

First of all, newborns are very portable because they eat, sleep and poop and that’s about it, so take advantage of this window when you can cart them anywhere and they don’t care. Secondly, it’s all on your terms when to pull the chute and you won’t have to drop the little hints that go unnoticed. By the way, some of these single people, elderly uncles, etc. are fantastic to be around because they are often just as self absorbed as a newborn and it’s sometimes strangely refreshing to talk about something other than babies.

Put them to work

Some people are just itching to help when you have a baby and you know what, let them. These people are like damn border collies and if you don’t give them a task, they get destructive and are liable to chew the leg off a chair or worse, start throwing stuff out. Let them do dishes, tidy up, clean the bathroom, take out the garbage, take your other kids to the park, whatever. Don’t want them seeing your gross underwear? Throw it in your closet and let them deal with the rest of the pile.

Just leave *your* to-do list out and if they ask if they can help, just point them to it and tell them to help themselves if they feel like it. Not everyone is comfortable around babies but really want to help, so give them the satisfaction of doing something for you and just enjoy it and thank them profusely so they don’t start installing a sprinkler system.

Tag team

Remember the first point? That kind of applies to visitors as well. If they aren’t the kind of person you can lose it in front of, then have a buffer person with you to entertain or deflect if you need to pull a batsmoke. Just have these people over when your partner or close relative or friend is around in case you need to excuse yourself for an hour to cry on the bed for no particular reason (I did this…twice).

Partner plays the bad cop

If you think you’re second string to the baby, just imagine how your husband feels. As I mentioned in the New Dad Survival Guide, this is his chance to shine because I can gua-ran-tee you that there will be some tricky situations when visitors come; like the cousin that announces he’s just getting over the flu in passing conversation while holding your 3-day old infant. Or the great Aunt that insists that the baby needs to be brought out in a snow storm to meet her bridge club. Or the nephew that drops by and could “really go for a sandwich”.

Dad (or partner, or side kick), it is your job to step up and say, “Oh, hell no.” You know why? Because everybody thinks a protective father is cute and everybody thinks a protective mother is nuts, so do everybody a favour and unhinge.

This is also a perfect opportunity for an Al Pacino impression.

Make them bring food

As my friend’s Jamaican grandmother used to say, “Don’t come wid you two long han”. Which loosely translated to don’t show up empty handed.

Not only should you stagger these people, but try and get them to bring you food. I featured a brilliant website called Meal Baby where people can pick a date where they bring you a meal. Not only do you get a dinner that you don’t have to cook, but you get to decide what dates are available so you can control the flow of people. Have them pop it over or sit down and share it with them, either way, they get a baby fix and you get some lasagna. I say win-win.

Treat it like an Out-of-Office Reply*

Sometimes people think it’s nice to pop in to see how a new mother is doing if they haven’t had an immediate response to a message they left an hour ago. This actually isn’t too bad for the people you can tell to “shut up” because you can tell them if it isn’t a good time and their feelings won’t get hurt. For the rest of the population it is not cool to arrive unannounced at a new parents front door because there is no telling what kind of Stephen King nightmare is going on that day.

To avoid these awkward moments, I like to treat it like a vacation notification. Change your voicemail and your email to let people know you’re kind of off the grid. It may seem like a no brainer to you but some people feel the need to constantly “check in”. Just have an auto-reply that says, “Thanks for your email (call). We’re just getting the hang of parenthood so forgive us if it takes a little longer than usual to get back to you. Don’t worry, we’re just fine and loving every minute of it.”

I know this may be a little over the top and may feel like the equivillant of adding the dog’s name to Christmas cards (I love that actually) but it’s an easy way of letting them know they’ve been heard.

* Obviously, if you’re alone and live in the woods in wolverine country, disregard this advice and be grateful someone is checking to make sure the cat isn’t eating your corpse.


Do you think Aunt Kelly is going to be a problem? Get your responses thought out NOW or start laying the groundwork NOW. If you think she’s going to show up on your doorstep the day you give birth then start telling her the story of a co-workers mother-in-law that showed up the day she gave birth and how awful it was and how you’re so lucky that your family just *gets* that you need a couple of days to settle in. Get an email ready saying, “Aunt Kelly, we can’t wait for you to see the new baby! I’m just getting the hang of it so can I give you a call when I come up for air so you can come over and meet her?” then hit *send* when she fires off the first email.

Go with the flow

Does Aunt Kelly still show up? Does your Mother-in-Law that you’ve never met fly in from the Ukraine and set herself up on your couch? Does your sister drop in everyday to tell you about the disgusting brunch she had or everything about her wicked pilates instructor?

Roll with it and save your energy like a solar street light on a dimming switch. Ask Aunt Kelly to hold the baby while you go have a shower. Say “Diakuju” when your mother-in-law makes dinner then go lie down with the baby. Tell your sister she needs a fucking punch in the throat then apologise and blame it on your hormones while savoring the good vent.

The best thing you can do with visitors, a new baby, and I suppose life in general, is just roll with it.

Even though you are now regarded as the remaining husk that brought this precious, perfect gift into the world – you will be asked how you feel as a courtesy but no one gives much of a shit how you are now so try not to ramble – it’s still your show, honey. So remember, choose your visitors wisely and enjoy the little star that everyone wants to see shine.


Early Induction: Why all the Hype?

The term “early induction” has been tossed around the Internet a lot lately– it has even shown up on mainstream media outlets like Wall Street Journaland BusinessWeek. What are they saying and what does it mean for pregnant women? Below are some basic points with links to more in-depth information from credible resources.

How early is an early induction?

An “early induction” is any induction that is performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Experts from several recognized organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Childbirth Connection and March of Dimes, state that a baby needs at least 39 completed weeks in order to fully develop their brain and other vital organs.

What are the risks of early induction?

Induction in and of itself carries risks to mom and baby. Because induction is an artificial process for starting labor, your body may not be ready to follow its cues. As a result, inductions can cause a cascade of additional medical processes (interventions) to keep labor going, which can ultimately lead to an increased risk for cesarean surgery. Unless there is clear medical indication (see below), letting labor begin on its own is the safest decision.

Induction before 39 weeks brings an additional risk of prematurity. Babies born even a little too early can experience complications like problems with breathing, feeding, maintaining body temperature and jaundice. In most cases, babies know best when it comes to being born.

What if I need to be induced?

There are solid medical reasons for induction before 39 weeks. Being done with being pregnant, isn’t one of them. ;) There are also several reasons given for induction that are not true medical reasons. It’s important to know the difference. Click through and read up on the two links provided above on the new induction resource page on Childbirth Connection, a not-for-profit organization founded that works to improve the quality of maternity care.

If you’re pregnant and faced with the decision to induce — and even if you’re not — read up! Inform yourself. Learn all that you can, from sources in addition to your care provider and other than well-meaning family and friends. Start here:

  • Childbirth Connection Induction of Labor Resource Site
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Labor Induction Guidelines Pamphlet
  • March of Dimes Induction Information
  • Guidelines from Lamaze on Induction here and here

Top 10 things not to say to a pregnant woman

“Tis the season of Christmas lists. Here, in a service to fathers-in-law, office workers and the desperately dim everywhere, Sally Peck offers a list of the top ten things NOT to say to a pregnant woman.
Something about a pregnant woman signals the breaking down of boundaries to those around her. Normally reserved colleagues, typically thoughtful in-laws, usually polite tube commuters suddenly think they have carte blanche to play 20 questions. Perhaps it’s the whiff of sex.
So, to those who feel a bout of verbal diarrhoea coming on whenever they see an expectant woman, here is my holiday gift to you.
*Note: these are all things that family members or colleagues have asked me or my pregnant colleagues in recent weeks. You cannot make these things up.

What not to say to a pregnant woman:

1. “Is it twins?”

The only proper response to this is: “You”re looking a bit portly, yourself”.If the lady is expecting twins, she’ll give that information out on a need-to-know basis.

2. “Did you have IVF?”

If it actually is twins, do not ask: “Did you have IVF?” Romulus and Remus came long before IVF. In fact, don”t ask if it was IVF, reglardless. Use of in-vitro fertilisation will be given out on a need-to-know basis.

3. “Your bump is high/low/big/small”.

Chances are really high that the woman has a mirror, or at least sees one as she makes her way about town each day. Unless she is blind, she’s probably got plenty of pregnancy hang-ups based on her own observations. Don’t add yours.

4. “What birth control were you using?”

This was one of the first questions a colleague asked me when I told her (a mother, herself) about my second pregnancy. Unless you are currently sleeping with the woman, this is not your business.

5. “Which sex would you prefer?”

Unless the lady engages in highly unethical selective abortion practices, she has no control over this. Both boys and girls are good. Even if you don”t believe her “”I just want a healthy one”, go with it.

6. How long are you going to take off work?

She doesn’t know. She’s just trying to get through morning sickness/ uncontrollable gas/ the stupid questions of others. list of proxy websites Just wait and see.

7. “Really? I didn”t know you wanted children.”

See answer four. Assume, once its impending arrival is announced, that a child is wanted.

8. “Is it getting to be too much for  you at work?” / “Should you really be going to the gym?”/ “You should really be going to the gym!”

This woman is the same colleague you’ve had for months or years. Unless she is a belly dancer or has made a career of modelling her abdominal muscles, assume that she can continue to perform her normal job. She hasn’t had a lobotomy; she”s just pregnant.

Assume that, if you know about the pregnancy, so does this woman’s GP. load test website . Doctors advise on exercise. And, chances are, this woman can still think for herself.

9. “My wife/ girlfriend had a really easy pregnancy.”

REALLY? Are you sure? 100 per cent sure? Are you certain that she wasn’t cursing you in her head? Because I”m pretty sure she was, at least at some point. And why, exactly, do you think hearing of the breeze it was for someone else will help the woman in front of you right now?

10. “Who is the father?”

If a woman is having a child on her own, and/or has used a sperm donor, she’s probably thought about this a bit more than, say, drunk people hooking up after meeting in a bar. And she may not know tons about the sperm donor. Or she may not want to tell your nosey self.

Again, as in answers one and two, she’ll let you in on her secrets on a need-to-know basis.

It”s best not to ask if a woman conceived using IVF

Here is what you can say:

1. Congratulations

2. You look well (this is especially helpful if she does not look well)

3. You will be a wonderful mother

Those are actually your only options.